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City Leaders Decide to Drop Plastic Bag Fee in Brownsville

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BROWNSVILLE – People in Brownsville will no longer have to pay for plastic bags to carry home their groceries or other goods.

Brownsville residents have been paying a fee for the last six years. The fees for the bags generated $4.4 million for the city.

The state sued in 2016 over the bag ordinance saying the fee was in essence an extra tax. On Friday the city said its doing away with the practice.

Back in 2011, the city commissioners passed a plastic bag ordinance that, with some exceptions, banned stores from giving out plastic bags to customers. Those that did want plastic bags were forced to pay $1.

The fee is now being done away with.

“Last night the city commission voted to approve the Texas Attorney General’s settlement proposal, which at a minimum requires the city to repeal the fee portion of the plastic bag ordinance,” the city of Brownsville spokeswoman, Roxanna Rosas, said.

After the state filed suit, the city defended the ordinance. However, they did not want to go to court on the issue.

“The city commission and city leadership felt it was in the best interest of the community to not incur costs and utilize taxpayer monies,” Rosas said.

Mayra Lozano paid her $1 for unlimited plastic bags. She said there’s been times when she’s had to ask the next customer to loan her money to pay the bags.

“Sometimes we struggle every time we come and like a dollar extra? It’s not fair for us because sometimes we have no money,” she said.

When the bag ordinance was passed six years ago, city leaders then claimed the city stood to benefit from it because it would help get rid of trash and the funds would go towards environmentally friendly and beautification funds. During that time the city collected millions of dollars.

One shopper was skeptical and said she was in favor of repealing the fee.

Former Mayor Pat Ahumada, who was the driving force behind the ordinance, said the impact of having the fee repealed goes far beyond a dollar.

“What is he fighting over? That we’re helping the state of Texas keep Texas beautiful? We’re helping the environment, protecting the waterways from contamination that’s killing wildlife, reducing landfill waste that saves taxpayers' money and space,” he said.

Eugene Novogrodsky said he hasn’t missed seeing plastic bags stuck in tree branches. He said the city has looked clean since the ordinance went into effect.

“It is a bad thing because I don’t like the decorations of the plastic leaves in the trees. I want real leaves and not crazy little plastic bags,” he said.

Novogrodsky hopes people will stick to their reusable bags to keep the city clean.

The city used the money for street sweepers, recycling machines, beautification and cleanup of resacas, duck ponds and other projects.

As part of the settlement, city officials said it also leaves room to rework the ordinance as they see fit.

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